Republican congressional candidate Hung Cao expressed opposition to both aid for Ukraine and a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed Congress last year in a debate Thursday with incumbent Democrat Jennifer Wexton.
The low-key debate in front of the Loudoun Chamber produced no real fireworks, but Cao’s differences with Wexton on Ukraine and infrastructure spending place him at odds even with many members of his own party.
Asked about the Ukraine war’s effect on the U.S. economy and the proper U.S. response, Cao said, “My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people. … But right now we’re borrowing $55 billion from China to pay for the war in Ukraine. Not only that, we’re depleting our national strategic reserves.”
A $40 billion aid package for Ukraine passed the House earlier this year on a 368-57 vote, with a majority of Republicans in support.
Wexton, for her part, supports efforts to back Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion.
“Vladimir Putin invaded a sovereign nation. We cannot let that stand,” she said.
On the infrastructure bill, which provided $1 trillion for roads, bridges, ports and other spending, Cao dismissed it as a sop to labor unions.
“The infrastructure bill, all it’s done is allowed for unions to get priority onto infrastructure and reconstruction. We all want safer roads but we also want the right to work,” he said.
Wexton said the infrastructure bill was exactly the kind of legislation that business groups like the Loudoun Chamber and others had been demanding of Congress for years. “I’m so proud of this bill, I cannot even tell you,” she said.
The infrastructure bill passed Congress with the support of 13 House Republicans and 19 Senate Republicans.
In his opening remarks, Cao — a Vietnamese refugee and retired Navy captain — complained that Wexton is unfairly labeling him as an extremist. He said she has wrongly tied him to the Jan. 6 attack on Congress in a campaign mailer, when in reality he had just landed back in the U.S. from his final combat deployment on Jan. 6 and was nowhere near the Capitol.
“I fought and bled for this country. I’m an American. And she calls me the same name she calls a terrorist,” Cao said.
After the debate, Wexton said she calls Cao an extremist because he holds extreme views. She has cited comments Cao made during the primary in which he complained that those arrested in the Jan. 6 attacks have been denied due process.
“This is exactly what the totalitarian, authoritarian regimes do,” Cao said back in April. “After I swear in, I promise, I’ll be at those prisons and asking what the due process is.”
Cao also sought to question Wexton about a bill proposed by a Democratic state legislator that would make it a crime to bully or abuse a child based on their LGBTQ status. The bill has become a Republican talking point, and some Republicans have said they fear it could be used to prosecute parents who don’t support their child’s efforts to transition genders.
Wexton said after the debate that she does not believe the bill would do what Republicans claim, but that she does not support it, and she said parents should not be criminalized for disagreeing with their kids if they express a desire to change gender.
Wexton, a two-term incumbent, is favored in the newly drawn 10th District, which is based in northern Virginia. But the GOP has been buoyed by the fact that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won 49 percent of the vote in the district last year, and have said Cao’s background as an immigrant and retired Navy officer is particularly appealing in a region with high percentages of Asian Americans and military families.
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